At 102 years old, Peter Chance has lived a life filled with adventure and community service, spending 30 years in the Royal Canadian Navy and more than 40 years of his life in various roles with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
But despite being a staunch sailor, his experiences learning to fly Tiger Moths in England during the Second World War - in between fighting German submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic and surviving the sinking of his ship off the coast of Iceland - stuck with him.
On Feb. 13, he was able to fulfil a long-held dream to return to the skies, thanks to his friend Paul Seguna and the Victoria Flying Club.
“It was absolutely the most exciting time I have had in my so-called vintage at 102,” said Chance. “(When he heard the flight was going to happen) I said ‘hell, let’s go!’ It was one of the best things to ever happen to me. The whole thing was just sheer excitement beyond measure.”
The flight took Chance, Seguna and flight instructor Darren Rich – all veterans – along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, up as far as Nanaimo and over the Gulf Islands. Chance recalls it was a perfect flying weather, with clear skies and excellent visibility. But the stunning west coast views from the skies were only part of the experience, and certainly not the highlight of the trip.
For Chance, the highlight was being able to take the controls and fly the Cessna 172 for nearly an hour, including some maneuvers under the watchful eye of Rich.
“It’s been a long time since I flew a plane, but it all started coming back to me with the controls at my feet and hands,” he said. “It was the icing on the cake for me, just marvellous.”
Seguna, a friend of Chance and one of his so-called aides-de-camp, said the idea for the flight came about during one of his regular lunches at an aviation-themed restaurant at Victoria International Airport. At one point as they were driving around the area, Chance made an off-hand comment that he would love to get back in a plane again, and Seguna took note.
He reached out to Rich to see if it would be possible to organize a flight. Rich checked with the club’s general manager, Michael Schlievert, who was all too happy to arrange for the club to provide a plane and fuel for the flight.
“We’ve been a club here since 1946 and we have been leaning toward flight training. And it’s easy when you do that to see the club participation side of things slide away,” said Schlievert. “We’ve been on a turn here to make us more of a club with Saturday morning coffee and, this really fit with that … we are friends of aviation, we have a history with it, he has a history with it, so we just jumped on it.”
Seguna said there were some challenges getting schedules to align with good flying weather, but the work paid off and he is proud to have had a part in making it happen.
“The satisfaction of giving Peter an experience that was so important to him and that he got so much enjoyment out of, made it so worth it,” said Seguna. “He was right on board with it from the get-go, an he was in good shape to be able to do it.”
While Chance is forever grateful for efforts of Seguna and the members of the flying club for making his dream a reality, he is already looking forward to his next big adventure.
“I have a scooter down in the basement here, and when it gets a little warmer, I’m going to go out and terrorize the neighbourhood,” Chance said with a chuckle.